Loss Creates Leaders. I made that the title of the first chapter in my new book because I believe it's the most important lesson for anyone who aspires to leadership in business or elsewhere in life. It is the foundation upon which all else is built. Loss made me the person and the leader I am today. You cannot have a rainbow without first having a storm. As my friend Fred Smith at Operation HOPE says, success in life is all about managing pain. To me, success is going from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm.
There is enormous value in having experienced and worked through legitimate suffering. Of course, I am not suggesting that you should invite pain—and certainly you should not create any—but I am saying that you should not fear it. As leaders and parents, we need to stop trying to save our team or our children from having to face life's hardships. Instead, we need to help them embrace challenges as teachable moments and as opportunities to learn. Whenever something "bad" or unfortunate happens to me, I always ask myself, "What's the lesson here?"
At the age of 18, I was homeless for six months. The result is that I can now walk into a meeting with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or with a head of state anywhere in the world, and not feel intimidation, insecurity, inferiority, or fear. What are they going to tell me in response to my new idea? No? Well, I had nothing when I walked in the door, so I am no worse off in leaving with nothing. What I don't have is a fear of failure. That is a life lesson you don't learn in business school. You learn it by facing your challenges head on. What keeps us all from embracing change? Fear. It was Franklin D. Roosevelt who famously said "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
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Bryant is the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Operation HOPE, America's first nonprofit social investment banking organization. He is also vice-chairman of the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy. His new book is Love Leadership: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Wiley) .